Commonwealth Financial Network Review

Commonwealth Financial Network is headquartered at 29 SAWYER ROAD WALTHAM, MA. The firm has been registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission since 6/11/1992. It boasts 4000 total employees and has 2700 employees that perform investment advisory functions.

Commonwealth Financial Network earns a PennyPilot Grade of:

F

What factors determine the PennyPilot Grade?

The PennyPilot Grade is based on five factors that we believe drive successful financial outcomes for individuals and their loved ones. Read more about the PennyPilot Grade here. Those factors are:

  •  Potential Fee Level – Commonwealth Financial Network maintains a High potential fee level compared to rival financial advisory firms. The fee an advisory firm charges you is a crucial contributor to whether or not you achieve your financial goals. Hiring a financial advisor that charges excessive fees can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more! Excessive financial advisor fees can mean the difference between running out of money in retirement or not. We’ve analyzed typical fees listed in forms advisory firms are required to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission to see how individual firm fees compare to competitors. Our analysis culminates in a score ranging from Low (Best) to High (Worst). Learn more about the Potential Fee Level here.
  • Clients Per Advisor  Commonwealth Financial Network has a Above Average number of clients per advisor relative to other financial advisory firms. This factor considers how much time the financial advisor you choose to work with will be able to devote to serving you. Expansive client lists can limit a financial advisor’s ability to provide adequate service to you and your family. This could be detrimental to you and your loved ones quest to achieve your financial goals. We categorize firms in groupings ranging from Low (Best) to High (Worst). Learn more about the Clients Per Advisor input here.
  • Amount of Firm Resources – Commonwealth Financial Network has Substantial resources compared to other financial advisory firms. The resources a firm has at its disposal can impact the breadth and depth of services offered and its viability as a going concern. Greater resources may also position firms to rectify any wrongs in cases of advisor disputes. Firms earn a resource assessment rank ranging from Modest (least amount of firm resources) to Substantial (greatest amount of firm resources). Learn more about the Amount of Firm Resources input here.
  • Disclosures Score – Commonwealth Financial Network has a Poor disclosures score relative to other financial advisory firms. This input assesses the extent to which an advisory firm’s record includes past criminal, regulatory, or disciplinary disclosures. The result of the assessment places firms in one of three categories: Poor, Mediocre, or Exemplary. Learn more about the Disclosures Score input here.
  • Dual-Registrant Conflict – Commonwealth Financial Network operates with the presence of this conflict. Dual registration refers to advisor firms or individual advisors that can act in two capacities; as registered investment advisors (held to a fiduciary standard), or as brokers (held to a less-stringent standard of care). This dual-registration creates conflicts of interest between clients and investment professionals providing recommendations. The presence of this conflict can prove harmful to investors seeking guidance compared to working with a financial advisor where this particular conflict is absent. You can learn more about these investment professional distinctions by accessing our Investment Professional Infographic. Firms are categorized into one of two groups, indicating the presence of this conflict or not. Learn more about the Dual-Registrant Conflict input here.

Advisory Firm Summary

Number of offices in addition to their headquarters: Commonwealth Financial Network has 1275 additional offices.

Total clients: The firm has 330,959 clients.

Total client assets: The firm has $161,852,722,626 in total client assets. 

Average client assets: Commonwealth Financial Network typical client has $489,042.

Total employees:  The firm has 4000 total employees.

Employees that have investment advisor responsibilities: 2700 employees act as investment advisors in some capacity. 

Number of clients the typical firm investment advisor serves: The firm’s advisors typically serve 123 clients. 

Compared to Other Advisory Firms

Total Clients

Average Client Assets

Total Employees

Number of Investment Advisor Employees

Typical Clients Per Advisor

Total Client Assets

Services offered:

Financial Planning

Portfolio Management for Individuals and/or Small Businesses

Portfolio Management for Businesses (other than small businesses) or Institutional Clients

Pension Consulting Services

Selection of Other Advisers (Including Private Fund Managers)

Publication of Periodicals or Newsletters

Educational Seminars/Workshops

Firm Disclosures:

The SEC or CFTC has entered an order against the firm or an advisory affiliate in connection with investment-related activity.

The SEC or CFTC has imposed a civil money penalty on the firm or an advisory affiliate, or ordered the firm or an advisory affiliate to cease and desist from an activity.

Another federal regulatory agency, state regulatory agency, or foreign financial regulatory authority has found the firm or an advisory affiliate to have been involved in a violation of investment-related regulations or statutes. Another federal regulatory agency, state regulatory agency, or foreign financial regulatory authority in the past 10 years has entered an order against the firm or an advisory affiliate in connection with an investment-related activity.

A self-regulatory organization or commodities exchange has found the firm or an advisory affiliate to have been in violation of its rules (other than a violation designated as a minor rule violation under a plan approved by the SEC).

FAQs

Commonwealth Financial Network has more than one investment advisor listed in its form ADV. Will I work with a team of advisors or only one advisor?

You want to gain an understanding of what resources are available to you as a client, and who you may or may not be in contact with should your regular advisor be unavailable. You might get along well with the advisor you initially meet with, but not as well with other advisors or support staff that you will interact with. If your financial advisor works within a team, try to meet multiple team members that you could potentially be working with down the line.

You can also gain insight into whether or not your advisor has someone to bounce ideas off of and share their workload with. Given the abundance of information financial advisors must stay knowledgeable about and the array of responsibilities they maintain, dividing the workload can benefit you as a client.

Commonwealth Financial Network has more clients per advisor than a typical firm. How does your firm ensure each advisor can spend the appropriate amount of time with their clients?

Our data shows that this firm may be piling on too many clients to its advisors, and therefore spreading its advisors a bit too thin. There may be a plausible explanation for why this is, but it is worth digging into further. An example of a plausible explanation would be an alternative business model to other firms, such as a reduced fee structure which saves you significant money in the long term, and thus could make the reduced attention worthwhile. If this is the explanation, the PennyPilot Potential Fee Level score should be correspondingly “Below Average” or “Low”.

Commonwealth Financial Network is either dually registered itself or it employs advisors that are registered as both a broker and an investment advisor representative. How does your firm manage this conflict of interest?

Data shows that this firm, or advisors at this firm, may earn commissions from selling securities in addition to fees earned in the role as a registered investment advisor. While certain studies have shown that clients of firms with dual-registration generally pay more overall than clients of firms that are not dually-registered, this is not necessarily the case. Therefore, it worth digging deeper to get an understanding of the firm’s awareness of this conflict and their approach to addressing it.

What types of clients does Commonwealth Financial Network typically work with?

You want to find a financial advisor that has experience working with clients that are in a similar situation to yours. Advisors sometimes tailor their practices to specific niches, such as dentists, doctors, corporate professionals, millennials, professional athletes, and many others. The more experience an advisor has navigating the nuances of your specific situation, the better they’ll be able to serve you.

Can you describe the Commonwealth Financial Network approach to investing?

At a high-level, investment approaches fall into active or passive categories. Adherence to an active investment strategy entails more buying and selling of securities as investment managers attempt to beat the market (typically an index, such as the S&P 500). Passive investment approaches are generally less involved. They often hold exchange-traded funds that track indices the active managers are attempting to beat.

There are also other angles to consider when prodding an advisor about their investment approach. For example, you may prefer to stick to an Environmental, Social, and Governance(ESG)-focused investment strategy that considers not only financial outcomes, but broader impacts as well.

Does Commonwealth Financial Network handle investment management in-house, or do you outsource this?

If a financial advisor outsources investment management, then likely the fee they charge will be in addition to a third-party investment management fee. If they do outsource, ask what the all-in fee will be. Also, if they are outsourcing investment management and charge you an annual fee, see what else they’re providing on an ongoing basis to justify their annual fee.

Has Commonwealth Financial Network had any clients leave? If so, why?

A financial advisor could have caused a dispute with a client or fell short of expectations they set for that client at the start of their relationship. Compare the financial advisor’s response to other advisors you’re meeting with; this question could be illuminating. Nearly all advisors have had a client depart, and the transparency of their response can be telling.

Does Commonwealth Financial Network have any asset minimums?

You don’t want to waste your time evaluating an advisor that won’t accept you as a client. An advisor also may generally work with clients who possess greater assets than you, which could leave you lower on their priority list. On the flip side, an advisor may generally work with clients that possess less assets than you, which may render them out of their depth when it comes to managing your assets.

What communication parameters does Commonwealth Financial Network set?

A financial advisor may only speak with clients once a year and set criteria for communication outside of that, such as in the event of a major life change. The advisor setting proper communication frequency expectations is a good thing, even if it occurs less frequently than you originally thought necessary. This can help clients avoid rash decision-making in the face of a volatile market, that can deter them from the plan originally established. Whatever the communication frequency is, make sure it works for both you and your advisor and that it is clear from the start.

The PennyPilot Grade relies on data submitted by financial advisory firms to the Securities and Exchange Commission, a U.S. government agency that regulates financial advisory firms that meet certain criteria. This data is not independently verified and does not include all U.S. financial advisory firms. The SEC requires firms to fill out Form ADV to report the data. This form offers advisory firms some discretion in response to certain data points, which could obscure uniformity in reporting across firms. All inputs used in the PennyPilot Grade serve as a proxy, which may cause the reality experienced by any individual advisory firm client to differ. In addition, the following PennyPilot Grade Potential Fee Level input-related limitation should be acknowledged. The PennyPilot Grade fee comparison does not necessarily include fees charged to clients by financial advisory firm third-party vendors, which could cause fees to be higher in certain instances.